The end of the 2017 minor league season is here, so I thought now would be a great time to take a look at the 2016 draft. It’s way too early to judge the draft or label anyone as a bust or a success, but we’ve learned quite a bit about these guys in the last 15 months.
We’ve learned enough that if teams had this information at the time of the 2016 draft, it would have changed their selection choices. So with that in mind, which guys would move up and which ones would see their draft position take a hit if the draft was held now?
I’ll take a look at five such players from each category. I’ll be sticking to players taken in the first two rounds, as these are the kids who were at least on the first round radar and all heavily scouted as compared to a guy who may have slid under the radar a bit.
It’s important to note that I am not calling any of these guys busts. There is still time to see them each improve. If I was doing this last year Dillon Tate absolutely would have made this list, so there is plenty of time to turn things around. Also I’m not factoring in injuries, so a guy like Braxton Garrett isn’t being considered.
Mickey Moniak, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies took a guy with some helium as the top pick over the more heavily talked about guys. In his pro debut last year Mickey Moniak flashed his potential in the Gulf Coast League, but this year he has looked over-matched at Low A Lakewood.
Moniak is a kid who was drafted for his hit tool, but he’s hitting .237 at this time to go with a sub-.300 OBP(it’s at .286). For a guy seen as a top of the order guy and one without big power, those numbers are unacceptable.
There’s almost no chance the Phillies would select him first if they re-did the draft today, though that’s partly because of Maikel Franco’s struggles and the plug and play bat of Nick Senzel.
Corey Ray, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Corey Ray was a divisive prospect last year. Some saw him as a future offensive star, while others saw him as a future platoon bat. I’d say I was in the middle of that spectrum, but can’t say I expected the former Louisville star to be hitting .238/.311/.367 through 494 plate appearances in the High A Carolina League.
As if that’s not rough enough his strikeout numbers are large at 153. If there is some positive he has at least hit pitchers from both sides at a similar clip. The Brewers are going to hope he can end up writing this season off to injury, as he didn’t have a full offseason last year while he recovered from injury, then received an aggressive assignment.
If the Brewers could do it over I’d have to think they would consider someone else.
Matt Thaiss, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Unlike the others on this list Matt Thaiss hasn’t had a disappointing stat line. He hit .265/.353/.399 with eight homers in 84 games at High A, though it was the California League. He was promoted to Double A and has hit .308/.415/.408 with a homer over 46 games. That’s a total .279/.375/.402 with nine homers over 130 games.
So why’s he on the list? Because he hasn’t caught a game. He’s played no where other than first base with some designated hitter mixed in. He’s a first baseman who can’t slug .400 in the Cal League and is barely over .400 in Double A. That kind of power just doesn’t play at first base in the big leagues.
I actually like this kid’s bat, but not enough to consider using a first round selection on it when he’s a first baseman. The Angels passed on guys like Forrest Whitley, Blake Rutherford, Carter Kieboom, and Taylor Trammell among others.
Will Craig, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates took the ACC Player of the Year and two-way star Will Craig who went right to the New York/Penn League and played nothing but third base. His numbers there weren’t bad but at the same time hardly impressive for a former ACC star, especially the .362 slugging percentage for a guy drafted as a power bat.
Things have gone further downhill this year as not only has the slugging percentage barely improved to .375 in Low A, but he’s made the full time move to first base. Similar to Thaiss he’s got decent enough numbers, a total slash line of .274/.375/.375, but he’s a first baseman with no power as he’s hit eight homers in 810 career plate appearances between his two seasons.
For a small market team who has needed to draft and develop well to be successful, picks like this can be very costly. Not to say Craig can’t have a long big league career, but he doesn’t have the look of a big league starter.
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore took a chance on a college arm with some helium in his draft year. He was always a bit risky considering he was only a starter for one year and in his two years in relief he had hits per nine above 10. When you’re in the Big Ten and not the SEC that brings questions.
He didn’t have any issues in the New York/Penn League last year after signing, but that was just 27 innings and not a huge challenge for a college guy. This year they tested him with High A, where he’s got a 5.90 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in the Carolina League. He’s given up 11.9 hits per nine innings and none of his other ratios say this hasn’t been a horrible year for him.
The O’s continue their struggles in the drafting and developing of pitching, but they also didn’t identify the best pitcher as the next two picks of pitchers were Dane Dunning and Cole Ragans, as well as Dakota Hudson being on the board. Dunning is a college pitcher with much more success in the Carolina League, while Hudson is a college arm who has already reached Triple A. Ragans is further away and still a work in progress, but he’s racked up 87 strikeouts over 57.1 innings.
Others Considered-Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies; Buddy Reed, OF, San Diego Padres; Anfernee Grier, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
Forrest Whitley moved up last year after he spent the previous winter working on his body and game. All of his hours of work have paid off in a big way, as the prep pitcher has already reached Double A in his first full season at the age of 19.
Whitley has been at Low A, High A, and Double A and been dominating hitters at every level with 137 strikeouts over 88 innings, with at least a 13.0 strikeout per nine rate at every stop. It’s arguable that he could be the highest drafted pitcher in a re-draft, over the likes of Ian Anderson, Jay Groome, and Cal Quantrill among others. The Astros got a steal with this big Texan.
Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds
What does this line look like? .282/.371/.454, 24 doubles, 10 triples, 13 homers, 41 steals, and 71 walks. That’s awfully similar to 2006 Curtis Granderson, though with fewer strikeouts.
The former Georgia high school football star was seen as raw because of his time on the football field, but if this is him being raw then the future is special.
Even if he doesn’t grow into more potential than what we’ve already seen, his toolset screams impact player. It’s impossible to picture him sliding out of the Top 10 if we re-drafted.
Joey Wentz, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Joey Wentz is an interesting case because he only dropped to the end of the collective bargaining agreement round due to a combination of bonus demands and injury red flags. Those haven’t slowed him as a pro however.
While he hasn’t quite pitched with the velocity we saw pre-draft, that hasn’t slowed him at all, and those past injury red flags have stayed away. This year he’s been in Low A and thrown 131.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP to go with his 152 strikeouts.
Wentz has been dominant at times and shown a real feel for pitching, so it’s not hard to see him being the next young Brave to skip right from Rome in Low A all the way to Double A. Wentz would move up significantly in any re-draft.
Alec Hansen, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Alec Hansen entered the spring of 2016 as a favorite to be the top pick in the draft, but never pitched up to the hype as a junior at Oklahoma. That changed the day he signed his pro contract though, as he stopped in the Arizona League, Pioneer League, and Sally League while combining for 54.2 innings with an ERA of 1.32 and a WHIP of 0.81, not to mention 81 strikeouts.
After just two appearances in the Sally League last year he began this year there as well and has since moved to High A and then Double A. In 136 combined innings he has a 2.78 ERA and 1.15 WHIP to go with 182 strikeouts. He’s pitched like the guy who people expected him to be entering the spring of 2016 and still has the pure stuff of that guy, though command can be an issue for him at times still.
Hansen would be a significantly higher pick than being a guy who fell to 49th a year ago.
Bo Bichette, SS/2B, Toronto Blue Jays
Bo Bichette fell to the second round because his swing was a little unorthodox and also partly because his older brother, Dante Bichette Jr. was a bust as a draftee. He couldn’t do more in his first full season as he’s reached High A and put up numbers that get him in the conversation for Minor League Player of the Year.
Between Low A and High A, he’s hit .365/.426/.570 with 41 doubles, four triples, 14 homers, and 22 steals. Those are special numbers for a kid who just turned 19 in spring training.
The scary thing is that the home run power hasn’t fully shown up in games yet, though it certainly looks like it eventually will. He would be a lock for a Top 5 pick in any re-draft.
Others Considered-Mitchell White, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington Nationals; AJ Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics; Bryan Reynolds, OF, San Francisco Giants